We’ve reached the end of the road - the last stage on this tour of our Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). Over the last four posts we’ve counted the total climate cost of making the UK’s most sustainable tissue products.
For our grand finale we’ll show how it all stacks up; how Naked Sprout compares to other eco rolls, what difference this makes to your own climate footprint, and the changes we want to see in our industry.
If you’re just joining us now, or want a refresher, here’s the story so far.
In 2023 Naked Sprout commissioned the most detailed and transparent Life Cycle Assessment in our industry. Our assessment takes the same obsessively detailed, cradle-to-grave view of our processes that we do.
We source our raw materials with care, counting the emissions involved in every stage of supply and transportation so that we can improve our process, and unlike other eco brands our efforts don’t stop here. With no fossil fuels used in our manufacturing, nearly all of the energy that we use at our factory is generated on-site or comes from local sources of naturally-renewing biofuel. We manage our final delivery with DPD, taking advantage of their established network and rapidly growing fleet of electric and biofuel-powered vehicles. And none of our numbers include offsetting.
How does this compare to how things are normally done?
The Bog Standard
We are serious when we say we offer a truly sustainable alternative to other toilet rolls, and we’re not drawing easy comparisons here. If they weren’t buying our rolls most of our customers would choose another eco brand, or recycled rolls made in the UK. So that’s who we compare to, using known facts and published data about the standard processes used to make other eco toilet rolls.
What do these standard processes look like? Here’s what we know about the production methods made by other eco rolls.
Bamboo rolls made in China
The bamboo rolls sold by other eco brands in the UK are, as far as we know, all made in China. This means cheaper labour and less regulation around emissions than in the UK and EU. It also means higher emissions from transport, as these companies ship finished rolls rather than raw pulp.
And when we look at the wider design priorities and operations of these companies we still see bleach and chemical whitening, unnecessary dyes and wrapping, and a fossil-fuel intensive manufacturing process that may or may not be addressed by offsetting.
Recycled rolls made in the UK
Recycled rolls manufactured in the UK are manufactured using all or mostly fossil fuels, very often come with plastic wrapping, and will almost always be bleached or chemically whitened.
We should also point out that “made in the UK” can mean several different things, from the entire process of converting pulp to rolls, to just taking finished rolls that have been shipped from overseas and boxing them in the UK.
Either way, the raw material to be recycled will generally come from outside the UK, so transport emissions are still high. These emissions are actually getting higher - most manufacturers use waste office printer paper as the raw material that they recycle. The rise of home working since the pandemic as well as the widespread move to paperless offices has meant that this resource is becoming scarce. So manufacturers are importing from further and further afield to meet their needs, leading to more road miles for the same quantity of material.
If you’ve read this far, you know we set our standards higher.
Making the Change
So, in the final analysis, how do our numbers stack up against those of our competitors?
Sadly most toilet roll companies don’t publish their carbon emissions. This is why we asked Carbon Footprint to calculate our carbon footprint, and create profiles for a typical bamboo and recycled toilet paper that we could use to compare.
Carbon Footprint used published data around raw materials, distribution and manufacturing to make profiles for standard bamboo and recycled toilet paper that were as close to 'real' as possible. They included embodied raw emissions, the manufacture/processing, and all transport elements up to delivery to the customer’s doorstep.
Now we can make some comparisons. Here’s how these numbers chart.
We can see the huge difference we are making by manufacturing without fossil fuels for electricity or heat - a massive chunk of emissions for other brands that is just a tiny sliver for us.
But how does it work out at the individual level? We estimate that one person will use just under one roll of Naked Sprout per week. For the sake of neatness, let’s call it one of our 48 roll boxes per year.
For our recycled toilet roll this would mean 4.92kg of CO2e emitted, and 4.66kg of CO2e for our bamboo.
If the same person were to use the equivalent weight of standard recycled toilet rolls found on UK supermarket shelves, the climate cost would be 14.36kg. If instead they were to choose bamboo rolls made in China the emissions would be around 15.20kg.
This means that the difference you are making by switching to Naked Sprout is significant. Just one person switching from a standard recycled UK product is saving the equivalent CO2e as burning 10lb of coal. And, for that same person, switching from a bamboo brand made in China is the equivalent of charging a phone 1282 times.
That’s just one person. Naked Sprout is used by offices of hundreds of people, tap rooms, cafes, and wonderful customers up and down the country who are converting their families and friends. We are excited about the difference this is making. But at the moment we can only describe this difference in estimates.
If other brands are doing better we want to hear about it. Actually, we want everyone to hear about it - we think the situation merits complete transparency. So we’re not just putting our numbers on our blog.
Back in 2007 Tesco announced they would be adding carbon labelling to all of their own-brand products. Five years later this initiative was dropped, with Tesco explaining that it was a lot of work to calculate these figures, and that other retailers weren’t providing the same information.
We get it. It is a lot of work to calculate your climate footprint, and the numbers don’t mean much if other companies don’t follow suit. Sixteen years after that initial announcement the situation is more urgent than ever, but clear reporting is still hard to find.
But our customers still care, we still care, and so we’re pushing forward. We have been inspired by Oatley’s move to include the CO2e figure for each of their products on their product packaging. We want to see the same thing in tissue manufacturing.
Starting in 2023, we will be printing the CO2e involved in producing Naked Sprout on our boxes.
We are proud to be the first brand of toilet paper to be doing this, and we sincerely hope we won’t be alone for long. When it comes to the environmental impact of the products you use every day, you really shouldn’t have to ask.
And we’re done!
It’s been a whistle-stop tour of forests, furnaces, and forklifts. More than anything we hope this series has demonstrated the amount of thought and care we put into making Naked Sprout.
This is what it takes to make the most sustainable products in our sector. It’s not easy, but it’s not impossible. After three years we feel optimistic about the scale of change that is possible, not only for us but for everyone manufacturing tissue, and manufacturing more generally.
We have no intention of stopping here - that number on the box will keep going down. We’ll be back with an update in 2024!
Want to try a truly sustainable alternative?